Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of April 28

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post I will be letting you know what I am doing or what I hear is going on out there in our local gardening world. I will be updating this post with quick supplements all through the week!

So check here frequently!

If you would like to contribute just drop us a quick note at info@skillins.com OR leave a comment at the end of this post. We would love any tips OR questions from you.

May 4:

Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport tells us "as your asparagus shoots start emerging, harvest spears at least pencil width from asparagus plants that are at least three years old. Cut the spears at ground level with a sharp knife and eat them that day for the best flavor. For asparagus, select a well-drained site in at least part sun; full sun is not necessary. Eliminate all weeds by repeated tilling, loosening the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. Mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Prepare the bed by digging trenches four feet apart. The trenches should be 12 inches wide and six to 12 inches deep. Soak the crowns briefly in lukewarm water before planting. Draw a hoe along each side of the prepared trench to form a mound in the center running the length of the trench. Set the crowns 18 inches apart on the mounds in the trench, draping the roots over the sides. Cover the crowns with a mix of one part compost to three parts topsoil , burying the crowns two inches deep. Water the bed thoroughly. After about a month, once shoots have appeared, carefully add more soil to the trench.”

This is excellent advice for planting asparagus. One point I may depart from is that I am not a fan of repeated tilling since that will raise havoc with the soil structure but you certainly want to rid your new asparagus beds of weeds. Another point I would make is that asparagus plants are ugly to look at as the season goes on so choose a spot somewhat far from your house if you have the option. I would also add scatter some Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma into the compost for some good natural nutrients. Later on in the season I would side dress the plants with one of these products for more nutrients.

Take advantage of the unexpected rain we received on Saturday to get out and pull "hard to pull" weeds that may already be prominent in your perennial beds or lawns. Even mature dandelions pull a little easier out of moist ground!

Many years ago now Jim Crockett of Crockett’s Victory Garden wrote about raspberries in his fine book, Crockett’s Victory Garden:

“Of all the delightful fruits for the home garden, none is more productive than raspberries. That’s a special bonus, because growing raspberries at home is about the only way to get them to the table in perfect condition; they are extremely difficult for the commercial market to raise and ship since they are so easily damaged in handling.

Ordinary raspberries ripen in midsummer on canes that grew the previous year.

I set the young bushes, which we bought in a local nursery, into our ordinary garden soil that had been enriched with cow manure and peat moss. (We would recommend planting with Shrub and Tree Mix by Jolly Gardener after pre watering the hole with a good root stimulator like Roots or a good natural fertilizer like Bio Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica which both contain natural microbes for all natural root stimulation, both products sold right here at Skillin’s). After that feed twice yearly with a good all purpose natural fertilizer like Plant Tone by Espoma or the aforementioned Plant Booster Plus by Organica.

I don’t expect more than a handful of fruit from raspberry bushes in their first year, but after a year or two in the soil they’ll yield bountifully for many seasons.” We have a great raspberry selection here at Skillin’s!

May 3:

Don't remove foliage from fading spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips until it dies back on its own. The plant needs the foliage to manufacture and store food in the bulb in preparation for next year's bloom.Removing green foliage weakens the plant. Wait until the foliage yellowson its own in midsummer before trimming it back. In the meantime, hide the unsightly foliage by doubling it over and tying with rubber bands.

Now is a great time to feed your bulbs with a good natural liquid fertilizer like Fish/Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest. The bulb plants will take the nutrients and micronutrients supplied by this great fertilizer and both store them and also use them to grow bigger and stronger for more flowering next year!

DK adds to this: "I hide my fading bulbs with other flowers: my tete-a-tete
daffodils/narcissus are petering out right now, just as my daylilies
around them are about the same height. Soon enough, you'll never know the tete-a-tetes are still there."

(Thanks to Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited for the first part of this tip!)

May 2:

Customer JM checks in with a question: I purchased a tree from skillins 4 or 5 years ago. It has never bloomed since planting it in our yard. What should I put on it for fertilizer? I'm hoping that I can do something now that will encourage blooms for next year.

Answer: Location is very important as your crab should be in a day long (6 to 8 hours for maximum flowering) sunny spot.

For best flowering I would recommend twice yearly applications of a good natural food like Flower Tone by Espoma. Also I would try a couple of liquid feedings of Fish and Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest to get some more natural ingredients into the soil that are conducive to the long term health of your tree and therefore it's flowering.

At some point it would probably be wise to do a soil test around the area of your tree.

Finally, it may be good to give the plant at least a light trimming or pruning but do it right after similar trees have just finished flowering. You don't want to wait too long for that.

May 1:

I am sure you cannot help but notice the beautiful Forsythia shrubs that are in blossom all over Southern Maine!

Forsythia is an easy shrub to plant and grow! Occasionally we will hear that customers have trouble with them blooming but that is usually because they may have pruned them in the fall. Forsythia grows fast and loves to be pruned and shaped but the time to do the pruning and shaping is right after they flower (think later this month). This pruning timing is the case with so many plants. Fall pruning of forsythia will mean you are shaping your bush BUT you are also cutting off the growth that will result in next year's flowers.

Forsythia loves full sun and a well-drained soil. I usually feed them with Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica twice per year.

As you can see, they make excellent hedges, borders or foundation plantings! We have some greatvarieties here at Skillin’s and would love to show you them

Barbara Gardener checks in:

"Not too happy that the heavy rain beat down so many daffodils and giant hyacinths. A friend ordered 25 giant stargazer bulbs and then gave them to me because she didn't want to plant them. And naturally I was stupid enough to take them. Also a huge trash bag of pachysandra. Have no idea how to spell that and neither does spellcheck. That stuff is terrible to dig up. Couldn't find where the main root was so we just pulled. Some of it is a yard long. Should be a fun afternoon! "

Barbara already knows this but pachysandra is a classic groundcover for a partial shade area. I just love it!

April 30:

I was driving from Falmouth to Cumberland earlier today and I saw my first “mowed lawn”. One of the most important steps in organic lawn care is to NOT mow your lawn too short in the Spring and summer. A 4” lawn is best, a 3” lawn will do and folks I can guarantee that these heights are taller than most of us are used to. Why so long? Well, keeping a “taller” lawn encourages deeper root growth, discourages weeds by having tougher lawn roots and more of a grass canopy, and reduces watering needs in the heat of summer.

With a taller lawn it is vital that you keep your lawn mower blade sharp throughout the season. Also, another good step is to aerate your lawn once or twice a year to let more sun and air down into your soil. We sell Aerator Sandles here at Skillin’s that you can strap on while doing your yard work and lawn mowing. With the sandles you just keep poking helpful holes into the earth!

April 29:

Happy Birthday to my mom Brenda Skillin. She and her sister in law Sally Skillin (wife of my late uncle John Skillin) married two hard working gentlemen named David and John Skillin who dedicated so much of their lives to building Skillin's Greenhouses and to educating thousands of Maine gardeners.

Dave and John were away from home a great deal and my mom Brenda and my aunt Sally raised 3 kids apiece and made a lot of meals and were the backbone of the house while Dave and John were working.

What you have done for so many should not be forgotten!

April 28:

Now is the time to plant "cole" crops. "Cole" refers to any of various plants belonging to the Cruciferae or mustard family. Even though you might not be familiar with the impressive scientific name or enjoy eating mustard you are certainly familiar with other members of this family which furnish gardeners with many gourmet delights during the season. The mustard family includes cool season crops such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, turnips and watercress. These crops should be planted about 2 weeks before your last frost date in soil amended with compost. Don't be concerned if the leaves turn red or purple. It's often a sign of phosphorus deficiency due to cool soils and will go away once the soil warms. Other crops to plant include lettuce and peas.” I planted some broccoli and red leaf lettuce the other day (just before all this rain!) Terry Skillin is worried that his pea seeds may have drowned in all this rain. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

But sunny days lie ahead and with it great days for gardening!

(Thanks to Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited for this tip!)

Monday, April 28, 2008

So Happy Together by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

First, I have to comment about the weather. Glorious. Just over a year ago was the now infamous Patriot’s Day Storm. The day’s ravages are still with us. Uprooted mounds where there once were mighty oaks, birch’s snapped like twigs, mismatched roof shingles reflective of those lost and replaced. Just a year ago this pas week I raked shards of glass from blown out sunroom windows.

On to the present and future! This will be my last installment of ‘Gardening 101’. My 3 previous installments are still posted here at the Skillin’s Garden Log. We’ve planned, prepared, tested and with all the walking are in shape. Now we are salaciously waiting to sow the seeds of our studies.

Right Plant, Right place.

Longing for the fragrance of lilac after a May rain yet wonder why they never bloom in your woodland setting? Dreaming of a tidy garden with tiny pinpricks of Gold and Lavender for color yet plant Nepeta (Catmint) and Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans)? Wishing for a colorful low growing border for the shady side of your house and decide on Joe-Pye Weed and Garden Phlox? You love the abstract form and texture of the Mugo pine with a vision of installing several along the northern foundation. You feel these sprawling evergreens will work well under the canopy of your crabapples. Will they?

What is wrong with these scenarios? I have many such stories of woe but you don’t need to.

My recommendation is simple. Too simple, really. Research.

Does this mean you have to investigate arm loads of gardening magazines? Spend countless time searching on-line or fill your library with gardening books?
What to do?

With the exception of People, Places and Plants (found at http://www.ppplants.com/) , gardening magazines are often geared to the Hardiness Zones with longer growing seasons. Internet sites are only as reliable as those who create them. I trust the sites of known local nursery and garden centers and various University Cooperative Extensions.

Yes, all of this research may sound too much like work. Do not fret, fun is on the way. I’ve saved the easiest and above all totally FREE suggestions for last………….

Read, ask, buy...

Speak with the staff at your favorite family owned nursery and take away their gardening catalogs. A wealth of information on both accounts. It may seem obvious why asking questions is significant to picking the right plant but why a catalog?

The Nursery Catalog holds the key. Along with the common and botanical name, of each plant, shrub or tree are notations regarding sun exposure; growth habits and other conditions of interest. Carry these with you as a reference when shopping.

I’m not done yet. For I offer you the Pinnacle Plant Syllabus. Drum roll please!
A simple plastic strip stating a plethora of points-----the plant tag. Oh, how I wish I could purchase my own set and collect them as children do baseball cards. I’ll trade you the 1998 Perennial of the Year for the 2007 Cary Award Winner.

As you admire the plant, read before you proceed to purchase. Light exposure, height, spread as well as bloom time in words and symbol are included. Imagine all this time a world of answers waited at your fingertips. One final warning, however. As much as I adore plant tags, I abhor them in beds and attached to shrubs. You wouldn’t expose the care instructions or maintain price tags on your clothing? Remove those tags; keep them if you must (I keep one of each) with your journal or file just not in your garden. Many botanical markers are available or create your own.

Gardening 101 is now at it’s completion. Your passing grade will be what you make of these suggestions. We welcome your thoughts and will be gleeful at your successes and offer a shoulder for those plans that went awry.

Next time……….reports from the field…………

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses

April 28, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of April 21

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post I will be letting you know what I am doing or what I hear is going on out there in our local gardening world. I will be updating this post with quick supplements all through the week!

So check here frequently!

If you would like to contribute just drop us a quick note at info@skillins.com OR leave a comment at the end of this post. We would love any tips OR questions from you!

April 26:

Hammon Buck from Plants Unlimited in Rockport Maine has a great store and website and with his permission we have passed on gardening ideas from his email gardening column before. Hammon has some great advice on perennial care:

"May is a good time to dig and divide later blooming perennials if needed, such as hosta, ornamental grasses, perennial geraniums, bee balm, daylilies, helen's flower, and asters. If left undivided, plants may become unproductive and overcrowded, often bare in the centers. Wait until after bloom to divide overgrown early-blooming perennials such as yarrow and evening primrose. Dig up the clump, and with a sharp spade create wedges. Then, divide the clump in half, then divide each half further. Leave large divisions if you want plants to look better, and bloom more, sooner. After replanting, water often and deeply to reduce stress on these new divisions. "

April 25:

Sometimes you get a 2-for-1: landscape plants that look good and provide you with edible landscaping, too! So it is with blueberry bushes and fruit trees.

We have a great selection of easy to plant and easy to grow blueberry bushes and fruit trees here at Skillin's. Come see our great selection and let us show you how these plants can provide great tasting and healthy food for you and your family PLUS we can explain how they add quality year round beauty and character to your landscape!

David Beaulieu at About.com Landscaping writes the following good advice about fruit trees:

"Who says that only ornamentals can be used in landscape design? Apple trees (Malus spp.) are as lovely in bloom as any strictly ornamental flowering specimen. But unlike ornamentals, apple trees will provide you with a delicious harvest of fruit. And because you’ll be able to enjoy that fruit fresh off the trees (when it tastes best), you’ll have added incentive to adhere to the old maxim about having one a day to keep the doctor away!

Nor are the aesthetic landscaping uses for apple trees limited by their blooming periods. A row of apple trees can act as an attractive privacy screen all summer and fall, while fully leafed out. Or perhaps you already have a privacy fence, but it looks too bare -– you’d like to dress it up.

Dwarf varieties of the apple can serve as the “clothing,” trained along your fence in an art form known as espalier. Dwarf varieties (5’-8’ tall) and semi-dwarf varieties (12’-16’ tall) are better plants for espalier than are standard apples (20’-30’ tall).

But don’t depend on dwarf varieties to be as hardy as semi-dwarf varieties and standards. For a homeowner living in planting zone 3, for instance, it’s probably safest to restrict your selection to standards. Those of you, however, who live in a climate suitable for dwarf varieties should take advantage: you won’t have to wait as long for a mature yield of fruit (a couple of years) after planting as with standards (five or six years). Note, however, that in addition to apple tree variety, the other factors that I discuss throughout this article have an impact on how long it will take for the branches of your new apples to start straining under the burden of a bumper crop.

Selecting Varieties of Apple Trees: Climate and Taste

Beyond the consideration of dwarf vs. standard varieties, the first thing you should do to determine the varieties of apple trees you’ll be growing is to ensure that you select the varieties that grow best in your region....(we can help you with that here at Skillin's!)

The following are examples of varieties of apple trees that are good at producing fruit for particular tastes:

For a sweet fruit: "Honeycrisp"

For pie-making: "Northern Spy," "Liberty" apple trees and "Golden Delicious"

Selecting Apple Trees – Varieties Resistant to Disease

But not all of us will want to let our taste buds make the decision for us; it’s ultimately our muscles we listen to the most -– as in avoiding sore muscles by adopting low-maintenance alternatives. In the latter case, disease-resistant varieties of apple trees may carry the day over varieties that require spraying -– regardless of nuances in taste. Four diseases commonly attack apple trees: fire blight, apple scab, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew."

Here at Skillin's we recommend Freedom and Liberty as two varieties that are very disease resistant.

We also offer some "heirloom apple" varieties including Roxbury Russett and Newtown Pippin (a favorite of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson!).

Check out our 2008 Nursery Catalog in PDF form at http://www.skillins.com/ for more descriptions of the varieties that we offer!

April 24:

Onions are so good and so easy to grow! The easiest way to grow onions is by planting onion sets. Onion sets are grown from seed one year, harvested early and stored under controlled conditions and then sold in the Spring. They are easy and foolproof and they are usually the first harvest of the season in your garden. Here is some advice on how best to plant onion sets from Jim Crockett of Crockett’s Victory Garden:

Plant the sets in mid to late April. First, work any good garden fertilizer such as Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Plant Tone by Espoma into the soil. Plant 2 rows, 2 inches apart, gently pressing the sets down into the soft soil at 2” intervals until the tips are just under the surface. This is a dense planting, but pull every other one to be eaten as sweet juicy scallions later in the Spring, leaving half the crop to mature into full-sized onions.

The deep snows of winter offer a perfect opportunity for mice, moles and voles to hide from cats and other predators. However, such rodents will often spend their winter under the snow gnawing on young tender recently planted trees. Now that the snow has mostly melted such eating can easily be noticed. Too much eating can cause girdling and be fatal to the tree. If you notice bark missing and parts of your trees gashed on the lower trunk areas we urge you to wrap your trees with a good quality tree wrap (sold here at Skillin’s). Wrap your trees to a point of 1 to 2 inches in the ground and extend at least 18 inches up the tree. Again, such eating may eventually be fatal but if your tree is to be saved, any exposed areas should be protected from sun scald or disease spores. Also always avoid using mulch within a foot of tree trunks because that mulch can be a haven for rodents. Let us know if you have any questions!

Question from customer MF: "This spring we are going to attempt to be more organic with our lawn and flower gardens. We need some advice as to the order in which to apply various products. Last weekend we bought the Organica 4 step program and also we want to put down a layer of compost. The products in question are:

grass seed (to reseed some bare spots)
Organica Lawn Booster
Milky Spore
Organica Kelp Booster

Answer: "The Organica Lawn Booster is an excellent product but it consists of corn gluten meal and you should not put that down on the ground at the same time you put down the grass seed because corn gluten will stop any seed from germinating as the corn gluten breaks down into a gel and thinly covers the ground.

I just applied the Organica Lawn Booster to my lawn EXCEPT in areas where I just put down some Jonathan Green Black Beauty grass seed (which I highly recommend by the way). In that spot I would recommend putting down the Kelp (Step 2).

In early June when it is time to go to Step 2 of the Four Step Program I would put the kelp in areas that you did not seed and I would put the Lawn Booster (step 1) in areas that you did reseed and have now germinated. So after you have done all this you have put both Step 1 (Lawn Booster) and Step 2 (Kelp Booster) down just in reverse order where you seed.

Confused? Just let me know and I will try to “re explain”.

The Milky Spore can be applied anytime.

Are you putting the compost on the lawn? I would put the compost down after the grass seed is germinated and you have mowed that area once or twice. If you do this apply the compost VERY THINLY—maybe an inch. Very thin; you don’t want to strangle your grass."

Question from VB in New Jersey: A friend from Maine recommended your site for a question I have. I have a problem with cats doing their duty in my mulched gardens... any suggestions that would deter them from wanting to go in there? Any type of treatment or something?

Answer: Cats are tough because they mostly do what they want!

The key is to change the area that they do their duty in; you can do this by sprinkling animal repellents to the mulched area (most garden centers would sell Repels All by Bonide or Critter Ridder by Havahart).

Some people also put things in these areas that swing in the wind or clang a little. We also sell a device called the Scarecrow that sprays water when it detects motion in the area.

Just a few thoughts, if I get more I will pass them on!


April 23:

More lawn work: This morning before I came to work (good thing the sun comes up early now!) I put down Lawn Booster by Organica. Lawn Booster is the first step in Organica's All Natural Four Step Lawn Program and I am quite excited about it. Lawn Booster is corn gluten meal which naturally prevents weed seeds from germinating in your lawn. This is a good time to put it down to help prevent crabgrass seed. I love the Organica fertilizer products because through a unique patent they are able to combine their excellent organic fertilizers with natural microbes. This combination works with your soil to bring much better "biology" to your soil; the microbes help the fertilizer to break down more quickly and to bring a much healthier cell structure to your soil. The Organica Four Step Lawn Program is normally priced at $143; we are offering all six bags in the 5000 square foot program to you for $119. And then we will give you a mail-in rebate coupon worth $20 that once redeemed will bring your net price to just $99! So you can EASILY and NATURALLY treat your lawn for an entire season for just $99. That is awesome. Come to Skillin's so we can show you how! So, back to my yard: I put down Step 1 (Organica's Lawn Booster) this morning!

April 22:

Now that I have raked my lawn I put some grass seed down in some bare and hard to grow spots. I am trying some tall Fescue seed from Jonathan Green called Black Beauty that should set some nice deep roots (much deeper than typical Kentucky Bluegrass and ryegrass mixes). Tall Fescue should give off a nice green color and those deep roots should enable the grass to better withstand hot summer stretches (we have those) and cold cold winter temperatures (we have those too in case you did not know!)

April 21:

Customer BCT checks in with this great note. She took our suggestion a couple of weeks ago and planted peas in a container (while the ground was cold cold) and placed her container in the sun.

"I did plant peas two weeks ago in containers. I put them on my front steps in a pure southern exposure and they are about an inch high!!!! Great idea.......Now that I have tried it and it worked I will increase my attempt next year!!"

I just planted a second container early on a recent morning. If you have space in a sunny area for a vegetable garden NOW is a great time to plant seeds like peas, carrots, beets, radishes, and swiss chard.

We will have lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts plants available for sale this weekend AND they should be planted as well.

All of these plants need lots of sun. They can be grown in the ground OR in containers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Feel the Earth by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

What a great day---what am I doing inside writing on such a day as this? Waiting for the consignment company to carry away some furniture I would like to sell. Yes—I’m leaving behind the rich carved mahogany of yesterday for the crisp clean lines of today……..

We’ve planned, walked our property and now to truly prepare. We are still in the preparation phase. Let us review:

Plan before you plant-done
Prepare before you plant
Know your property- almost there
know yourself
Right Plant, Right Place

I am going to by-pass ‘Know your soil’ and go directly to know yourself.

KNOW YOURSELF : A week or so ago I wrote, “Warming up before gardening is just as important as warming up before a vigorous workout. After warming up, stretching exercises for the major muscle groups that will be involved in performing the task can reduce the risk of injury.” Return to the posting, No 5K for Me! to review some of the stretches and suggestions to get yourself physically ready.

Other ways to ‘know’ yourself is to make sure you have all the proper tools and clothing. Knee pads are more practical than a kneeling pad, either is better than kneeling without cushioning. Wear clothes that wick away moisture to keep you cool and dry. Sunscreen and insect repellant are musts. There is a lot to be said about donning straw hats. Visions of ladies in pastel colored floral smocks, large straw hat, basket over the arm merrily pruning roses….or gentlemen farmers, sitting on a tractor, hat made of straw, and a sprig to chew upon…. The brim of such hats will shield the eyes and neck while the weave allows for air to pass thru. For me, I feel naked without a baseball cap.

To ‘know’ yourself is to ‘no’ yourself. Forgive me; I shake my head as I write this sad but appropriate pun. Say ‘no’ when you begin to feel stressed in any way. So many times our bodies begin to fatigue before our heart is ready. One last weed, one more prune….they’ll wait. The garden gnomes will not take away all your fun. Resist, re-hydrate, relax, rejuvenate. Begin again if you must.

Ah—for the least followed gardening advice of them all:

KNOW YOUR SOIL: I’m not sure about you; the smell of soil is one of my favorite scents. Rich, loamy soil………aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! How do you get to know your soil? ‘Soil, this is KCB, KCB, this is soil’. This is not to say I do not talk to the dirt but the best way to get to know your soil is to test it. ‘Soil, which soil contains the finest particles?’ (Answer below)

o pH = soil acidity or alkalinity
7 is Neutral
< = Acid (“sour”) Add lime to decrease (increase pH) Wood Ash > = Alkaline (“sweet”)
Add aluminum sulfate (decrease pH)
o Levels of Nutrients (only 3 are listed
Nitrogen (N) 1st # on plant food/fertilizer bag
Promotes foliage over-all growth in lushness and color
Phosphorus (P) 2nd # on plant food/fertilizer
Promotes flowering (blooms) & Fruit development
Promotes strong roots
Potassium (K) 3rd #
Promotes over-all health, strength and size of plant

There are many other nutrients and components of soil, so much more to say, so little interest…….

Why good soil? A good loam offers stability and support for 2 things. Soil with all the essential nutrients (16 per my hort studies) enables the plant to take in all that they need.

Therefore, my new mantra for 2008 is

‘Feed your soil and your soil will feed your plant’.

Speak with the staff at your favorite family run nursery, they even have do-it yourself soil test kits for sale. Your County Cooperative Extension is also a valuable tool. They may be contacted @ http://www.umext.maine.edu/counties/county.htm

Next time Right Plant, Right Place

See you then…………. Answer: Clay

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Has Arrived!

Margie of Skillin's Falmouth is back with 3 delightful photos of Spring here at Skillin's!

The first photo is a young lady holding a friend and some cute pansies!

This next picture while not as colorful shows a crowded greenhouse just chock full of green perennials just waiting to find a new home!

And what would Spring be like without the colorful crocus that has been gracing our landscapes for the past few days!

Thanks Margie!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Land is Your Land by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

KCB is back with a sequel to Strangers in the Night by KCB , the exciting gardening post from last week. Walk with KCB through your yard in this enlightening look at your land!

Ah---the snow has faded from my back yard, the front garden is adorned with purple and white bunches of crocus. It is amazing to see dried leaves of season’s past impaled on the emerging foliage of the hyacinths. The ground is still a little too frozen to work yet there is nothing to stop me from cleaning it and preparing the postage stamp sized bed for the coming year.

This is the part of the lesson I write about Preparing before Planting. Less fun but equally important as the planning.

Prep can be subchaptered as ‘Know your Property, Know your self’. What kind of kind of statement is that? You may have lived at your current residence for years, raised children and assorted pets. Knowing self? What does that have to do with gardening? Those who have read my postings may have realized that to me, everything has to do with gardening. Ready?!

Know your Property

Take a leisurely walk around your property, whether it a sprawling spread or tight terrain. A must for all with a new home and those planning any changes. Take notice of the following:
§ Topography
§ Wind intensity
§ Drainage
§ Water Source
§ Sunlight
· Time of day and duration
§ Micro-climates
§ Wildlife
§ Known Pests
Topography: It has become a trend to work with the lands topography instead of removing, backfilling and restructuring. Boulders remain to offer their own interest, rock gardens are incorporated, hills and slopes become new challenges, woodland perimeters offer their own possibilities.

Wind intensity: Plots that are exposed and susceptible to steady wind (think side of hills or seaside) tend to dry out first.

Drainage: Spring is the best time to discover your own wetlands. Much of the soil in the Falmouth area is clay based. The bed you make in May may be underwater in March/April. Many plants abhor wet feet, others relish it.

Water Source: I don’t know about you, but carrying 3 gallon watering cans to the back forty or navigating 1500 feet of hose is not my idea of a good time. The relationship to a bed and water source is important unless you have planned for drought tolerant plants

Sunlight: Observe during different times of the day. Western sun is the hottest. The hours between 10 AM and 6 PM EDT summer months are the most intense.
Full Sun: At least 6 hours of direct sunlight. True full sun occurs between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM DST. If your ‘full sun’ begins at the rising of the sun and is all but disappeared by noon you may not truly have full sun. Many sun lovers enjoy more than 6 hours per day, but need regular water to endure the heat.
Partial Sun / Partial Shade: Often these terms are used to mean 3 - 6 hours of sun each day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon. Some say if a plant is listed as Partial Sun, greater emphasis is put on it’s receiving the minimal sun requirements. At the same time, Partial Shade, the plant will need some relief from the intense late afternoon sun, either from shade provided by a nearby tree or planting it on the east side of a building.
Dappled Sun: Perfect for the woodland garden. It is the sun that makes its way through the branches of a deciduous tree. Woodland plants, those referred to as under plantings or under story prefer this type of sunlight more so than partial shade.
Full Shade: Less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day. Full shade does not mean no sun. There aren't many plants, except mushrooms, that can survive in the dark.

Micro-climates: Due to some of the conditions of wind, sunlight, wet/dry feet your property may have several micro-climates. A tender Gaura (zone 6) may thrive in one part of your property, while the Lavender (zone 5) in another bed must be planted each new season.

Wildlife/Pests: Hankering for Hosta, Hoping for Holly yet the deer use your property as a play ground, these plants may not be your best bet. Thinking about an array of Oriental Lilies while your neighbor has pulled all theirs between pulls of their hair, the Lily Leaf Beetle may have found residence in your neighborhood.

Now that you have an intimate relationship with your land, it is time to get serious with your soil. See you next time!

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
April 17, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of April 14

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post I will be letting you know what I am doing or what I hear is going on out there in our local gardening world. I will be updating this post with quick supplements all through the week! So check here frequently!

If you would like to contribute just drop us a quick note at info@skillins.com OR leave a comment at the end of this post. We would love any tips OR questions from you!

April 17:

Question from CR: Do you sell a product that can help my grapes? They are Concord, I believe, and never ripen until cool weather in September. I pruned them way back to give them more light and last summer we had beautiful grapes developing. Then suddenly from one day to the next they got black spots. I call it The Black Withering Disease. I prefer to go organic if possible.

Answer: I consulted with Terry Skillin about your question and I think he came up with some good points.

First off, the pruning was obviously a great idea and we encourage a good pruning again.

When dry weather comes, make sure you are not watering at night so the grapes spend wet night after wet night. A lot of wetness like that can lead to disease.

Terry emphatically recommended that you try Messenger on a regular basis. Messenger (sold right here at Skillin’s) is an all natural product (the active ingredient is harpin proteins) that once introduced to the plant fool the plant into thinking it is being attacked by disease and therefore triggers the plants own natural immune defenses. It breaks down quickly and it is environmentally safe—it does not pollute the ground or water.

Messenger means stronger roots, increased vigor, stress resistance and increased flowering and fruit set for any plant that it is applied to. Many of our customers use Messenger for their tomatoes and peppers as well as rose bushes and lilacs as well as fruit trees and other fruit plants like grapes.

Messenger should be consistently applied every 3 weeks throughout the growing season.

Also once we are into the warm and wet season (late June and on into August), you should probably spray your grapes with a natural fungicide called Seranade on a weekly or every other week basis as a further precaution against black spot. Seranade is all natural and extremely effective. I used it regularly on my roses and upright phlox last year and really kept things under control. Terry also suggested applying Seranade to your grapes once they dry from a heavy rain.

I would still feed your soil organically a couple of times through the growing season and I would recommend Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma!

Question from CC: Roses are new for me. I have read you advice about pruning roses and think it will be very helpful. How much of the total cane should I prune off?

Answer: I prune my roses back to just a few inches above the ground. You want to prune back all the dead and dying growth from the winter and by the time you get that done symmetrically you seem to always just be a few feet above the ground.

Question from JP: Good morning. Do you carry pampas grass? Other ornamental grasses?

Answer: We do not carry pampas grass because it is not hardy in Maine. Check out our online nursery catalog at http://www.skillins.com/ for more ornamental grass details. We do not have many in stock right now but we will have many more in by the middle of May when they are more flushed out.

Question from VC: I bought a lot of shrubs at Skillins last summer and fall —Rhododendrons and Green Emerald arborvitae. I'm not certain, now that mud season is over, when I need to start watering all these shrubs. There's about 35 of them. Can you advise? Also, should I feed them anything? And what would you suggest?

Answer: I would make sure your shrubs get at least an inch of water weekly. A good way to do that is put a rain gauge in the ground and see what the rain brings. If we have a dry week, then they should be watered well. If you use an overhead sprinkler, make sure you water them earlier in the day so the foliage can dry before the nights bring cooler temperatures. (Wet foliage and cool temperatures can lead to disease)

We definitely recommend twice yearly applications of Holly Tone fertilizer by Espoma for evergreens like rhododendrons and arborvitae. Holly Tone is a wonderful natural fertilizer that works to enrich the soil. It would be great to apply the Holly Tone anytime now and then later on in the growing season (late summer or fall).

April 16:

Customer SS has a question about corn gluten and weed control:

Question: I am looking to use corn gluten as as pre-emergent weed control, it should be used as soon as the forsythia buds begin to break open.Have you heard of any sitings of this budding happening in the area near your Cumberland store?

Answer: You can put corn gluten down soon. I will probably be putting some down in just a few days.

We sell corn gluten right here at Skillin’s; I recommend the Lawn Booster (Step One in their four part lawn series) by Organica. It is an excellent way to go and because of the patented natural microbes it contains the corn gluten breaks down very quickly for faster and more thorough weed control.

Next we hear from KP:

Question: I am writing to inquire if you might carry edible flowers. These would be used for the top of cupcakes for a wedding so we would want just the flower itself. Is this something you folks carry and what would the cost be?
If you don't carry them do you have any idea where one might find them?

Answer: We do carry pansies and violas and they are bright and colorful and edible. Later on we will carry nasturtiums and they are edible. They will be flowering by mid summer.
Borage is another edible flower that we will be carrying later on; we do have borage seed right now.

Question from TAS: When can I plant peas in my garden?

Answer: TAS, nice to hear from you again. NOW is the time to plant peas, spinach, and swiss chard seeds. We are also hoping to have available very soon lettuce, broccoli, and other cole crop plants--if not by this weekend, then very soon. It is great to plant all these crops now; you can have them all harvested by early July and then be ready to plant a second crop when the first crop is done.

Question: My rhubarb is going thin and I am getting less yield each year. What can I do?

Answer: Now is a great time to dig up and divide your rhubard. When replanting I would put in some nice organic matter like the Penobscot Blend by Coast of Maine (their recommend planting mix). I would also recommend applying a good natural fertilizer like Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma twice yearly each year. This will keep the soil in good shape and your rhubarb will THANK you for it! Remember too as with any new plant divisions, to regularly water your newly divided rhubarb throughout this growing season.

April 15:

Great news! Our 2008 Nursery and Perennial catalogs are now posted at http://www.skillins.com/ in PDF form. Just click on Nursery Catalog at our header and you will soon have our catalog at your fingertips!

April 14:

KCB checks in with this very timely missive:

Excellent recommendations regarding the roses. Now is the time to prune and cut back. Proper cut: Cut canes at a 45-degree angle just above a leaf bud (swelling on the cane). Slant the cut away from the bud, to encourage growth outward. Clean pruners after every use to prevent the spread of disease. Keep pruners sharp to make clean cuts. Also prune away any canes that cross.

Another recommendation for the potted rose is to amend the soil when planting. Everything I put in the ground I use Coast of Maine Penobscot Blend or Jolly Gardener Tree & Shrub. If the soil is good, I use 1/3 mix and 2/3 soil. For soil that has not have the nutrients it needs then ½ & ½ is my norm. In all instances I blend the mix and the soil thoroughly. Always remember to water in any newly or transplanted shrub. During dry times this may need to be checked daily.

I heard a quote the other day that will become one of my new mantras for the coming season-------ah, but I won’t share it now.

You’ll have to read my next installment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cumberland Open House Savings!

Great news! The Skillin's Cumberland Open House is this weekend at our store at 201 Gray Road in Cumberland. Please come see us. We have many exciting details listed below this coupon, many exciting reasons to come to our Open House. As a reader of the Skillin's Garden Log, please print out this coupon for additional savings!

Here is the detailed listing of events and door prizes and specials for the 3rd Annual Skillin’s Cumberland Open House:

Special Guest and Features

Betty Williams from the Cumberland County Soil & Water Lakes Program
We have developed a relationship with the Forest Lake association and Betty will be on hand Saturday to meet landowners and discuss the project

Ron Tripp from Jolly Gardener, long-time Maine suppliers of quality soil amendments and mulch will be on hand Saturday and Sunday displaying his company’s products and answering questions

Chad Skillin 20 minute one on one landscape consultation
Meet with Chad and pinpoint your problem areas and discuss uses and solutions.
Chad will be available first come first serve from 10an to noon and 1pm until 3pm Saturday and Sunday

· Special Floral arrangements show casing all the wonderful designs that are available to our customers
· Skillin’s Mountain View Farm Christmas Tree Production photos will be on display.
· Skillin’s Greenhouses Photo History on display.
· Dave Skillin will be on hand for great gardening advice and sharing his hobby of antique cars.

Door Prizes

Having some fun this year we have selected a group of prizes that to register for you will need to explore the store and find the door prizes with the products sales display station area.

Arrangement a month for 6 months
Register to win a arrangement a month for 6 months

Floral Party for 10
Register to win a Floral party for you and 9 of your friends

Register to win 3 perennials from Cary Award winners for 2008
Register to win Organica’s 4 step organic Lawn Care program (This is a $143 value!)
Register to win a 6” Orchid valued at $32.99
Register to win 1 full hour of landscape designconsultation with Chad Skillin (station A)

Grand Prizes 1 $500.00 and 2 $250. 00 Gift certificates


Silk Flowers and Plants 20% off
Outdoor furniture 20% off with three piece or more plus an extra 10% when place orders during the Open House
Colonial Candles 10% off 1 box
20% off 2 or more boxes
Bean Pod Candles 20% off
Sloggers 50% off
Crocs 20% off

Market Bouquets $8.99, reg price $9.99

50lb Black Oil Sunflower $28.99
25lb Black Oil Sunflower $18.99

20% off:
Seeds and Seed Starting
Pots and Saucers

$14.99 8” Hanging Foliage Baskets Buy 1 get 1 Free
African Violets $2.99 reg. $4.99
6” Orchids $29.99
10” Tropical Foliage 20% off

10% off Shade and Ornamental Flowering Trees
Buy a plant and pot and we will repot it for FREE

Come see us at Skillin’s Cumberland!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Graden Log with what could be his last contribution for awhile. Dale and Elsie are packing up the car and heading north for Perry Maine!

As Dale wrote me: "It may be my last article to you for a while. Soon to head North. Computer will remain in Florida. Will make some decisions about a computer after arrival in Perry...."

Safe travels, good friend and we hope to see you soon! Now for the story:

"Several years before my Dad took me trout fishing or deer hunting he took me to the woodlots. The forest was beautiful and I loved being there with him. His wood cutting tools were: A buck saw with a wooden frame; a double-bitted axe, and a 4-foot measuring stick. Each day his goal was to cut one cord of pulpwood for which he would receive $3.00. A fringe benefit allowed him to own one-half of the wood from the hardwood trees plus the tops and large branches of the softwood trees that were too small to be used for pulpwood.
When we arrived at the woodlot Dad would find his tools under a brush pile and go to work. Before cutting down each tree he would tell me where to stand and mention that a person needed to be very careful while working in the woods ---especially when felling a tree. “Strange things can happen when a tree is going down!”
After each tree was in a horizontal position the limbs were removed with the axe. Then he would use the stick, measure four feet, and saw four-foot logs from the tree. (The measuring stick was also a “pry bar” that was used under a log to keep the log from binding his saw.) The firewood and pulpwood were stacked in separate piles. The woodpiles were arranged and a tote road was started to make it easy for a team of horses with a sled to travel near each woodpile.
The handling operations that occurred between the tree stump and the paper mill began very soon after the tree was cut into four-foot lengths: (1) Each stick was usually tossed near the woodpile. (2) The stick was picked up and put on the woodpile. (3) When the ground was frozen and the horses arrived, each stick was picked up and placed on the sled. (4) The horses moved the wood near a highway. Each stick was lifted from the sled and placed in a neat pile that sometimes became very large by the end of the winter. (5) At a future date the wood was neatly stacked on a truck. (6) The truck transported the wood to a siding at the railroad station where each stick was neatly piled on a railroad car and delivered to the paper mill. (7) I did not become familiar with the old wood handling operations at the paper mill but many people still remember and can add the remaining steps.
My first jobs in the forest products industry were placing small sticks of wood on the woodpiles, and placing brush in neat brush piles. My Dad was involved in a small “clear cutting operation.” He didn’t make much money but his woodpiles were neat, the very small trees survived, and the natural carpet of the forest floor was not damaged. In January, February and March there was a special treat. If there was lots of snow on the ground the brush piles were torched. (When you were 7-8 years old and a lunch of sardines, baking powder biscuits, and hot cocoa around a brush pile fire represented a lot of good living.) About two years later, in the summertime, Dad took me back to these woodlots. The woodpiles were gone. Jack firs and small hardwood trees were full of life, and we found an unlimited supply of wild raspberries. A few years later Dad took me deer hunting and we returned to these same “choppings.” The hiking on the tote road was soft and easy. The aroma of that healthy forest is unforgettable. Wildlife loved the place. Deer signs were everywhere. The forest was beautiful.
As a teenager I helped my dad cut wood. I became skilled with using the double-bitted axe, bucksaw, and measuring stick. Removing the limbs from a tree that was in the horizontal position was my specialty. It was something like hitting a baseball. “The axe was my bat and the large limbs of the trees were baseballs. Removing the limb with one whack was a home run. Two whacks was a triple, Etc. Some large spruce limbs would strike me out!” When playing baseball a few years later I recognized the rewards of the arm strength and coordination that was gained from that training.
Family and other friends were generous upon my graduation from high school. In exchange for my photo and an invitation to the commencement exercises they gave me MONEY. The Graduation Ball was the last school activity for members of the Senior Class. Prior to attending my Graduation Ball I purchased a double-bitted axe and a metal –framed saw at the Perry Farmer’s Union Store. When the Graduation Ball ended at midnight I was healthy, alcohol (and drug) free, and alone. (At age17 that isn’t a bad way to end high school and start the rest of your life.) I drove my parents 38 Chrysler to my home, placed my graduation suit neatly on a hanger, and went to bed. Less than five hours later my new axe and saw were with me and I was cutting wood in a beautiful forest in Perry, Maine.
Since my first trips to the woodlots in the 1940’s many changes have occurred in the forest. A few years ago WLBZ Channel 2 of Bangor presented a documentary about the forest fires of 1947. I remember standing on a hill near my home and watching the billowing smoke on the southwest horizon at sunset. It was frightening to know that the fires were getting closer to eastern Washington County. A forest fire raged between Machias and Jonesboro. Until about twenty years ago dead trees from that fire could be seen from the main highway. It must be mentioned that the fire burned the forest but it did not kill the seeds. They were protected in the forest floor. When the rains finally arrived in October they became moist. An abundance of sunshine would also reach them. Little seedlings pushed the ashes aside as they started growing toward the sky. It is remarkable that about thirty years later, after the serious “Budworm epidemic,” of the 1970’s, one of the most healthy and beautiful forests in Washington County was between Machias and Jonesboro.
People that have spent time in a beautiful forest may encounter disappointments. Changes have occurred in the woods operations during the past sixty years. My first disappointment arrived in the 1950’s. The trees were cut on each side of my favorite trout stream. The evergreen brush was not removed from the brook. The brook became overheated, trout became scarce, and the brook often dried up during the summer months.
Modern wood harvesting operations usually make a mess of the forest. The mechanical wood harvesters and skidders do not have any respect for the forest floor. Every place that I visit after mechanical wood harvesting operations have taken place the area is a disaster area. More than two decades later it is not a happy place for man or beast. I join with those people who call it “shameful!” (NOTE: A visit to the Pottle Tree Farm in Perry, Maine allowed me to find a bright spot in the dark clouds. In 1974 Jim and Sandra Pottle received Maine’s Outstanding Tree Farm Award. In 1997 Jim and Sandra Pottle were named Outstanding Forest Stewards. Each year they harvest wood from the tree farm but in the process they maintain a beautiful forest.
My skills with using an axe and buck saw slowly diminished.. A few years ago I purchased a chain saw. The last time I cut down a large tree was Monday morning, May 20, 2002. I was trying to beautify the forest near my home. The top of the poplar tree was dead but when the tree hit the horizontal position the butt of the tree came alive! It jumped! It kicked! It knocked me to the ground! About a week later I was still lame, and sore, but alive enough to remember my Dad saying; ”You have to be very careful when you are working in the woods!
Many things have changed since my professional wood-chopping days with the axe and bucksaw. However some things remain the same. High School Seniors are still sending Graduation Pictures and Invitations to their parents and other friends. In early June, lilacs, apple trees, blueberry vines, lady slippers, and violets are in blossom. Trees are still growing in Maine. People should be very careful while working in the woods. (And everywhere.) Being careful may help us to live another day; have time to smell the roses, visit a beautiful forest, and thank God for it all."

Dale Lincoln
soon to be in Perry Maine again
April 14, 2008

Maine's Favorite Florist!!! again!

The wise readers of People, Places and Plants magazine have again selected Skillin's Greenhouses as their favorite florist. This is a tremendous accomplishment by our staff as the magazine is a national magazine with a heavy concentration of readers throughout the Northeast.

We are overjoyed that our customers voted us ahead of so many fine florists AND we thank our staff and you our customers!

We also received high honors in the Favorite Garden Center and Favorite Lawn and Garden Equipment Dealer categories!

People, Places and Plants magazines are sold at all Skillin's locations AND they can be found at www.ppplants.com!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of April 7

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country! In this post I will be letting you know what I am doing or what I hear is going on out there in our local gardening world. I will be updating this post with quick supplements all through the week! So check here frequently! If you would like to contribute just drop us a quick note at info@skillins.com OR leave a comment at the end of this post. We would love any tips OR questions from you!
April 12:
Here are a couple of great gardening questions. The first question is from LM:
Question: I would like to use some treatment this year for crabgrass but am concerned since I have a small dog. When I read the label on scott’s crabgrass preventer it didn’t look too pet friendly to me. Is there a safer way to go? I don’t need to kill all the crabgrass at once but I would like to start getting a handle on it.
Answer: LM, this type of question is asked frequently to us this time of year!

Lawn Booster by Organica (http://www.organica.net/agrihortilawnbooster.asp ) is just the product you are looking for. The product is natural corn gluten meal equipped with natural microbes that help the corn gluten to break down quickly and efficiently. “Broken down” corn gluten naturally coats seeds and prevents them from germination.

We highly recommend the Organica Four Step Lawn Program and applying the Lawn Booster in mid to late April and another application in early September and you should see a good difference.

The Lawn Booster covers 2500 square feet and retails for $25.99 at Skillin’s in Cumberland, Brunswick or Falmouth.

Or buy the Organica Four Step Program which is 4 bags of Lawn Booster and one bag of kelp and one bag of natural microbes ( a $143 value) for $119 at Skillin's and pay only $99 after a $20 Organica rebate. This would cover all four steps of the Organica 4 step natural lawn program for a 5,000 square foot lawn for the year.
JC has a question about roses!
I have one rose plant in a pot that I kept in the garage thru the winter and 1 that I left in the ground covered with mulch and a foam cover. The 1 in the pot doesn't look good and I am not sure of the one in the ground.

Is there any steps I can take to give these plants the best chance to survive? They are the Pope Paul white rose plants and they produce beautiful roses. This was the 1st winter for both of them.
Answer: The best thing to do for both roses is to prune any dead or dying growth right off; prune back to live growth (live growth is there if you have green on the inside of the bark).

Pull away completely any mulch around your outdoor bush.

I would get the potted rose out in the sun ASAP and give it a thorough watering. Also I would recommend applying a nice natural fertilizer like Plant Booster Plus by Organica OR Rose Tone by Espoma around your roses and let’s see if we can get some good natural nutrients to them.
Send any questions or comments to info@skillins.com OR by sending us a comment at the end of this post!
April 11:
It is time to get the Go-Pher It tubes out. The Go-Pher It tubes work very well against woodchucks. They are battery operated metal tubes that emit a consistent beep every 30 seconds or so. Once the tube is plunged into the ground (it needs to be within 30 feet of the woodchuck hole) the consistent beep can be heard underground (cannot be heard above ground) by the woodchuck family. Over the course of a few days, the woodchucks can't take the constant din of the Go-Pher It tube and the woodchuck family flees far from the area.
Several years ago, the Go-Pher It tube saved my gardening experience and this is the honest truth. A family of woodchucks had driven me to the point of giving up vegetable and flower gardening after a war of about 3 years. I tried everything: fox urine, gasoline rags, plant dusts, devices to spray water on wandering pests (a wet summer for me!) and many more schemes. Nothing worked until I plunged those Go-Pher It tubes into the ground.
So, if you own one or two, power them up and get them in the ground! If you need to own one or two, come see us at Skillin's!
April 10:
*I had a long work day so I did not get enough yard time! I did take a little time last evening to pull away almost all of the mulch around my roses so the graft or "knot" is pretty well exposed to the sun and the air. I need to prune off the last of the dead growth, but I think all four of my rose bushes made it through the winter. They spent much of the winter under a DEEP blanket of insulative snow and of course mulch but roses are still never a sure bet!
*I did get to give my front lawn a good raking. Wow what a winter! I had my front lawn raked clean at the end of November but I filled a whole bag full of dead grass, small branches, parts of Christmas wreaths and more! Wow did that lawn need a raking!
*While I was out there I had time to think about my old flowering crab that does not flower any more. It has been a couple of years since I cut them (probably more like 5 years) and the suckers are way too tall. I need to prune them at the base of the ground and this should help the roots. Also the tree has become leggy and I am going to try and prune HARD much of the old branches. Let's see if this pruning helps to rejuvenate my old friend. I will also be getting a good natural fertilizer like Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma around the old tree.
April 9:
*We planted some awesome pansies in some outdoor containers yesterday but last night a frost was definitely forecast. So we covered the pansies with a great lightweight cover called Frost Cover and as we took the cover off this morning, the Frost Cover had frost on it but the pansies were snug and protected underneath and ready for a bright new sunny day!
Yes, we have pansies for sale and YES they are awesome!
*Now is a great time to start edging your perennial and shrub beds. Grass creeps, it just does! So get that edger of yours out and start redefining those beds. Edging is a great way to get those garden muscles warmed up for more--especially on a bright sunny day like this!
April 8:
*The writers of "Today's Garden Center" regularly send us helpful material. This quick list of must have tools for every gardener sounds like a great list:
Here, courtesy of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Clark County, Ohio, are five must-have tools for gardeners of just about any experience level.
Soil Or Garden Knife – Can be used for weeding, dividing perennials, planting bulbs, spreading roots and cutting through small roots. Bonus points for carrying the clip-on sheath (holder) to hook on the waist or attach to a bucket.
Folding Pocket Saw – Handy for pruning those items that are just a bit too large for pruners, yet not too large and unwieldy to stick in garden bucket or bag.
Transplanting Spade - Fits in to tight spaces. Makes moving perennials in an established garden easier. More proportioned for digging the right sized hole. Can also be used for bed edging.
Adjustable Rake – Telescopic rakes are great for large or small areas. Flipped, they are great for smoothing mulch.
Hedge Shears – Good for shaping shrubs and perennials, great for deadheading those multi-blooming perennials like coreopsis.
We received this great question from LM about dividing Stella D'Oro daylillies.
Question: I have several stella d’oros that need dividing this year. They are already sprouting. I was planning on dividing them, re-planting some in the original location and then keeping some potted up until I had their new bed ready in a couple of weeks. I don’t have a green house and was wondering if putting them in pots outside at night might be too much for them.
Answer: NOW is certainly a great time to divide your Stellas and it is not difficult to do.

I think keeping them in pots for a couple of weeks will be fine. On cold nights keep them near your foundation to keep them a little warmer but for the most part they should be fine. I would recommend planting your new transplants with a great planting mix like Penobscot Blend by Coast of Maine or Plant Booster Plus by Organica.

Any new transplants should be watered regularly throughout the gardening season.

Speaking of watering make sure you water well your potted Stellas when the soil in the pot gets good and dry to the touch.

April 7:

What a warm day! I took my lunch break at home and quickly dragged a couple of good sized plants outdoors. It has been awhile since we have been able to give them a real thorough watering because of the size of the pots. So my Schefflera Arborcola and my flowering geranium both got a real nice soaking from my garden hose. Just prior to doing that I gave each of them two Plant Nutrition Tablets made by Organica (http://www.organica.net/).

The Plant Nutrition Tablets are a great source of organic nutrients for container plants that break down very nicely into the soil because the nutrients are accompanied by some natural microbes. This is organic science at its best AND the product is sold here at Skillin's. The tablets are easily applied by merely pushing the large capsules into the plant's root system! We highly recommend Organica's Plant Nutrition Tablets as an outstanding natural fertilizer for all container plants--hangers, large patio plants and, of course, any sized houseplants!

Tomorrow is going to be warm as well. If you have time in the afternoon, drag a large plant or two outdoors and give them a good soaking and maybe even some Plant Tabs if they have not had any TLC for awhile!

I also planted two flats of pansies in a pot that I filled with Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend potting soil (the best potting soil I know of--and it is a local product!). And guess what I stuck in for some fertilizer? That's right Organica Plant Nutrition Tabs! Tonight the temps are going to be right around 32 degrees but I am keeping the pansies in a protected southerly spot that is warm during the day. I think I will just keep the pot close to the foundation and I think the pansies will be fine! Plus if I bring the pansies inside my two cats, Manny and Noah will probably find that new soil and plant way too appealing overnight!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
Week of April 7, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Strangers in the Night by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

It’s 2 AM…..do you know where your favorite gardener is? Any reasonable person would be sleeping, unless you work 3rd shift. I have been known to pick-up such a schedule at the catalog phone center that I call my ‘other’ job, but not this night.

Outside my window Mr. Mockingbird (Mr., M) is chirping away. Last spring when I began hearing him ‘in the middle of the night’ I thought I was crazy. At that time, I had not heard a mockingbird since moving from the other side of Munjoy Hill. Was I longing so for the melodic warbling of the Mockingbird that I was delusional? Even after my first daytime sighting of Mr. M I could not believe he would put forth a merrily mocking medley at such a morose hour. Not to mention the thermometer barely pushing 30 degrees. Research later enlightened me to the mating habits of Mr. M and his brethren. The wee hours of the barely spring are the time to serenade a mate. A true troubadour!

While Mr. M and his ilk may be exciting, I have other cause for not sleeping. Tonight I am just too energized to sleep—the weather report is hinting at temps in the 50s. Yes! I might as well make good use of my time. Since I live in an apartment, vacuuming or any heavy cleaning would not win favor with the apartment dwellers above or below me. Darn! I so wanted to start my ‘Spring Cleaning’. Not!

Next best thing….to share some of the garden notes cascading through my head as I prepare for my elusive opening day of gardening season.

In my life, there aren’t many rules I tend to live by, when it comes to gardening I do follow certain self-imposed and proven guidelines. Why, yes, I would be ever so honored to share these with you.

Think of these as ‘Gardening 101’. We may not be freshman gardeners but this is a new season. Moreover, Gardeners being who we are, always look for ways to add, change, and revise. It may be why we do not get board, what other passion offers so many beginnings?

Volumes have been written on how to begin a garden or the gardening season. Sometimes less is more, sometimes less is just, well basic. Here are some basic tips and tools that I (try to) live by. Feel free to make them your own!

1.Plan before you plant
2.Prepare before you plant
3.Know your property/know yourself
4.Right Plant, Right Place

Planning before planting is much more than leafing through magazines and ‘just imagining’. Not only will planning save you money and time, in some cases, relationships.

Before you dash to your local family owned and operated nursery consider the following:

* How do you use your out door space?

* What is your vision for color, texture, form?

* How much do you, or more realistically, can you spend? There is more than just purchasing plants and shrubs. Soil amendments, plant food, tools, gloves even sunscreen and proper clothing add up quickly. Not to mention all those decorative items you must add to make the space so you.

* Think about—Maintenance; cost and time. You may have the vision but do you have the time and stamina to keep it that way. If not, will you/can you spend the money to keep it so. Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance.

* Window shop. Some of the best things in life are free. It doesn’t cost a dime to dream or look. I spend so much time at my favorite nurseries that customers often mistake me as an employee.

* Visit your favorite gardening center/nursery. The staff is as eager as you to get the season in full gear. There is a lilt in their step, broad smiles on their faces and even some are whistling while they work. I’m not saying it is not always so, the big difference between now and then is time. They have more time to dedicate themselves to answering your questions. Often they will dream along with you.

* Shop by catalog. I adore Nursery Catalogs. Not only do they offer a description of what will be available, they are a wonderful resource regarding care, maintenance and growing habits.

* As bare shelves break forth into a kaleidoscope of color, take the time to see what is available. ‘Just looking’ is much easier said than done as plants move quickly. That perfect Amethyst Astilbe may not be available tomorrow.

* Read the plant tags. More on this almost obsession of mine as the season progresses.

So, make a list, check it twice.

The seductive song of Mr. M has faded into the rising sun. Perhaps I should return to bed before Kayla, the slightly snoring Golden, gets the idea that now is a good time to go out.

Next writing we will tackle Prepare Before You Plant.

See you then!

KCB for Skilllin's Greenhouses
April 11, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gardening with Children

Crystal Rose of Skillin's Falmouth checks in with this great article about why we should garden with children and some helpful tips on how to garden with them. Crystal Rose has taught many gardening classes for children here at Skillin's and also on behalf of the Maine Cooperative Extension Service as a Master Gardener.

"Gardening with children is a great opportunity to share your love of something with someone you love. Teaching them the traditions and knowledge you have learned about gardening can be a great experience. When you show kids your love of the earth and the garden, and are able to surround them with plants and flowers, you start to notice that your passion can rub off onto them.

Involving children in the garden can start at an early age. Simple tasks, like starting seeds, pulling weeds, or even spreading mulch is a good first start. Once a little older, they are able to read seed packets and write out plant markers to help identify their new seedlings, and how to care for them. Gardening makes it easy to incorporate science, math, and art into everyday fun. A trip to your local garden store can prove to be entertaining. With all the sizes, shapes, colors, and fragrances of plants, children’s imaginations can run wild. You can use these ideas in creating a garden just for them. Before heading to the garden store, take the kids out in the yard with a compass and figure out what direction the sunshine’s on your newly plotted garden. With this new knowledge, do a little clue hunting in garden magazines or plant catalogs, and help figure out what plants will do best. It is fun to find plants that butterflies, bees, and birds enjoy as food. Let your children be in charge of choosing the varieties of plants. This will give them a good feeling, knowing they picked out and grew these plants themselves.

There is a flower for every child. Snap dragons; for example, can be made to “roar” by opening the flower and exposing its “teeth”. Mimosa pudica, the sensitive plant, is another exciting one. When you touch the leaves they close up and a minute later, they open back up.
Gardens can bring out a child’s senses. They are able to see all the colors a garden has to offer, hear birds sing; smell all the fragrant plants; touch the textured leaves and flowers; and taste the many flavors of fruits, herbs, and vegetables.

Safety is a big factor in gardening. Be sure to keep all fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, organic or chemical, stored away from children. Some plants can be harmful too. Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is a common weed that has tiny spines. It can be very painful. Using gloves in the garden can help prevent skin irritations that other plants may cause. It is also a good idea to help your children in identifying plants. There are plants out there, pretty or not, that can be poisonous.

Some of us may live in an apartment and traditional outdoor gardening my not be possible. Nowadays, a whole community maintains many gardens. Your local co- operative extension is a great place to get information on local community gardens and other horticultural related questions. The office always has a bundle of informational handouts to take home and learn about too. Growing houseplants is another way to bring plants into a child’s life. Just as there are many varieties of plants for outside, there is another large selection for inside. The garden store is usually full of beautiful green plants. There is always someone there to help you figure out the right plant for the right light.

Sharing the world of gardening proves to be beneficial for everyone. Whether it is your children or someone else’s, they are the next generation of gardeners. Make it one of the best experiences of their life, which they will never forget."

Crystal Rose
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 9, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Anticipation by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family

Not since 2 months into my 3rd year of life have I anticipated the ‘snow being all gone’. It was the year my younger and forever ‘the baby’ sister was born. Of course I will not say what year that was. You guys are smart and could do the math.

As I watched my mother’s stomach grow I kept asking ‘when’ regarding my new baby. Her pat answer was ‘when all the snow is gone’. I clearly remember (yes I can—but just don’t ask me what I did this morning) a rainy March day when it appeared as if all the snow was being washed away. The sky was steal gray and offered a slow steady drip.

Left over snow is less than pretty and often reminds me of white cotton candy that had been burned on the ends. I recall the snow being such an unattractive mess that day.

With each passing hour the snow faded. Late in the afternoon when only a dingy mist still prevailed I ran outside and checked every nook and cranny of our yard. In the ‘way back’ next to my play house remained piles of snow. This being the shadiest area I would have saved myself a lot of looking if I had only been smart enough to check there first.

I couldn’t get back in the house fast enough to report my findings. My mother was drinking coffee (instant) and had prepared me a cup of tea (I’m 100% Irish-and I was much too young for Guinness). ‘There is still snow!’ My shout clearly revealed my disappointed happiness. My mothers words still echo, “I guess it’s not time yet”. She seemed tired but managed a smile as she helped me into the chair that was thisclose to hers. My tea, mostly milk, and slightly elevated from room temperature, still warmed.

Earlier this week that particular day ran through my mind. Reminiscent of that (not too distant) memory, I was eagerly awaiting the snow in my back yard to disappear. You see, I was looking for a ‘baby’ of another sort. Under the piles of snow a cuddly white teddy bear was hibernating, said bear being a favorite of my own ‘baby’ a sweet Golden Retriever.

During one of the many snowy nights of this winter, it was dropped during our last outing. The next morning a thick layer of water laden white stuff rendered the bear invisible. Over these past couple of weeks I had monitored the reemergence of the bear. With each reveal I would try to retrieve the mass of synthetic fur. Unfortunately it would not budge. The little guy was frozen steadfastly to the poor excuse of a lawn that was now the back yard. When the bear no longer bore the camouflage of snow, my Golden tried to free her toy. She had no more luck than I did. Secretly I was glad. Then it happened. I was able to release the bear from its frozen prison.

For Kayla, the name of my girl, this was a good thing. For me, not so much. I had somehow justified that as long as the bear was frozen, the ground was frozen. For a gardener this means that the ground can not ‘be worked’. Yes I am more than anxious to get out there and dig in the dirt, but I am not fully prepared to start. I vowed to complete some winter projects, become more organized, fall or now, ‘spring clean’, work-out to get my body in shape. So many ‘to dos’.

Being a gardener in Maine means the season starts usually starts with a bang. An explosion of sun, warmth, and green growth. Last April we suffered through the ‘Patriot’s Day Storm’, only to have the following Monday be 85 degrees. My season started that day and didn’t end until November.

Kind of like my baby sister, wanting her yet not being at all prepared……

for Skillin's Greenhouses
April 7, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"New to Skillin's", Perennial Varieties, "R through the end"

Hello again,
Here are a few exciting “new to Skillin’s” perennial varieties we will be introducing in 2008.

I will list a few new varieties this week. This finishes up our listing. If you would like the entire list emailed to you, just let me know at info@skillins.com and I will send you a “Word” attachment. In other words, this one really catches my eye for this reason....!

I have highlighted aspects of some varieties thatI feel are some very attractive attributes to some of the plants.

‘Karasuba’ 8”-12” tall. Nice foliage plant for partial shade. Leaves are fan shaped and start out green turning into red tones as the leaves age. Fire red color in the fall. Starry white flowers in spring.
Zones 4-9. Blooms in spring. Part shade.

ROCKFOIL – Saxifraga
‘Purple Robe’ 8” tall. Delicate deep pink-red flowers. Small mound of bright green finely cut foliage. Zones 4-9. Blooms summer. Sun.
ROSE MALLOW - Hibiscus
‘Turn of the Century’ 6’-8’ tall. Bi-Color petals ranging in color from red to pink.
Gives the flowers the appearance of a ‘pinwheel’. Shrub like and more compact than other hibiscus. Zones 5-9. Blooms mid summer to late summer. Sun to part shade.

SEA HOLLY - Eryngium

‘Paradise Jackpot’ 24” tall. Beautiful blue flowers with large blue bracts on blue stems.
Zones 5-8. Blooms mid summer. Sun.
SHASTA DAISY - Leucanthemum
‘Snow Lady’ Dwarf variety with abundant flowers all summer. 10”-12” tall. Zones 4-9. Blooms summer. Sun.


‘Thomas Killen’24”-30” tall. Single Shasta daisy with a double row of petals near the center. Great cut flower.
Attracts butterflies. Will keep blooming if spent flowers are removed. Zones 5-9. Blooms early to late summer. Sun.

SNAKEROOT - Cimicifuga

‘Hillside Black Beauty’ 4’-7’ tall. Darkest of the Cimicifugas. Foliage is purple –black. Flowers are form a 1’ ‘bottlebrush’ are pale pink and slightly fragrant. Zones 4-8. Blooms late summer to early fall. Part shade to shade.

SPEEDWELL – Veronica

‘Blue Indigo’ 20” tall. Deep blue flowers. Zones 3-6. Bloom in summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Erika’ 20” tall. Reddish-pink flower spikes. Dark red-green stems. Zones 3-6. Blooms in summer. Sun to part shade.


‘Acre’ – 2”-5” tall. Very low, creeping foliage. Star-shaped yellow flowers in late spring. Zones 4-8. Blooms late spring early summer. Sun.

‘Angelina’ 3”-5” tall. Golden yellow needle-like leaves.Tips turn red-orange in cool weather. Zones 3-11. Blooms early summer. Sun.

‘Blue Spruce’ – 6”-10” tall. Silvery-blue ‘spruce-like’ leaves with yellow flowers in summer. Zones 4-8. Blooms summer. Sun.

‘Bronze Carpet’ 4”-6” tall. Mats of bronze foliage and rose-pink flowers in summer. Zones 4-8. Blooms summer. Sun.

‘Crazy Ruffles’ 20” tall. Blue-green leaves with wavy, toothed margins. Forms a compact, upright clump.
Red tinted stems. Clusters of soft pink flowers. Zones 3-9. Blooms late summer.

‘Munstead Dark Red’ 18” tall. Leaves are tinted with purple. Stems are reddish. Dark red flowers in late summer. Zones 3-9. Blooms July-Sept. Sun.

‘Neon’ 24” tall. Upright with light green leaves and rosy-magenta pink flowers.
Zones 3-9. Blooms late summer. Sun.

‘Pink Chablis’ 14”-18” tall. Upright with variegated leaves, blue-green with white edges.
White buds turning to pink flowers. Zones 3-9. Blooms late summer. Sun.

‘Red Cauli’ 10”-12” tall. Blue-green foliage, bright red flower clusters. Forms a lower compact mound.
Zones 3-9. Blooms late summer. Sun.

‘Samuel Oliphant’ 24”-30” tall. Foliage has unique variegation with green, cream and pink. Buds are light red and cream opening to pink flowers. Zones 3-9. Blooms late summer. Sun.

SUN ROSE – Helianthemum
10” tall. Evergreen, gray green foliage. with tiny, single flowers that resemble a single pedaled rose.

TICKSEED - Coreopsis

‘Sweet Dreams’ 18” tall. Flowers are soft pink with raspberry centers. Cutting back the plant 1 or 2 times before blooming with create a bushy compact plant that will bloom summer until fall.
Zones 5-8. Blooms late spring until mid-summer if not cut back. Sun.

VIOLET – Viola
‘Painted Porcelain’ 6”-8” tall. Creamy white flowers. Upper petals shaded with lavender. Deep purple center markings. Zones 5-8. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun, part shade to shade.

WALLFLOWER - Cheiranthus - Biennial.

‘Orange Bedder’ 15”-24” tall. Light orange flowers from May – July. Incredible fragrance. Wonderful cut flower.
Zones 5-6. Blooms early summer. Sun.


‘Canadian Wild Ginger’ 6”-8” tall. Large heart-shaped foliage. Foliage is larger than European wild ginger but not as glossy. Beautiful groundcover. Will naturalize. Flowers are insignificant. Zones 2-9. Shade.

‘European Wild Ginger’ 6”-12” tall This, glossy, heart-shaped leaves. Excellent groundcover. Clump forming. Flowers are insignificant.. Zones 4-7. Shade.


‘Queen Charlotte’ 24”-36” tall. Double rose colored flowers with gold stamens and bronze-green foliage. Zones 4-9. Blooms late to early fall. Sun to part shade.

WORMWOOD - Artemisia
‘Powis Castle’ 36” tall. Finely cut silver foliage. Mounding habit. Zones 5-9. Sun.


‘Moonshine’ 18”-24” tall. Lemon yellow flower heads. Finely cut, silvery foliage. Zones 3-10. Blooms summer. Sun.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Transplanting Your Seedings!

Hello again,

Recently in the Skillin's Garden Log we have discussed the ABC’s of Seed Starting. We reviewed how to start seeds indoors and when to start seeds indoors. (If you need a copy of that article, just let me know!). It may be time to transplant your seedlings when they show their first true leaves! This brings us to sections E, F, and G of the ABC’s of Seed Starting.

Equal parts of peat moss and vermiculite makes a good growing medium for your seedlings to be transplanted into now that they have their first true leaves. Unless you sowed your seeds directly into an individual peat pot (which I actually recommend in many cases), you will want to transplant your seedlings from their starting trays to give them more room and a better chance to grow. For containers, consider using plastic 6-packs, 3” or 4” peat pots, or peat flats, spacing seedlings one to two inches apart. You may also wish to add equal parts soil and sand to your mix as this makes the transition to the soil outdoors that much easier. Moisten your mix with warm water to make handling manageable. Fill each container within a quarter inch of the top and tamp down. Gently tap the seedlings as a group out of the container they were started in. Carefully separate the seedling, attempting to keep as much of the original medium around the roots as possible. Using a label or a pencil, make a hole for each seedling in your mix. Generally you will want to place the seedling at the same soil level it was previously. (Bushy type plants like lettuce or petunias need to be planted at the same soil line so their growing point is not buried, where upright plants such as tomatoes can be planted to the base of the first leaves and roots will develop along the stem that is buried.) Pinch the soil in around the base of the transplanted seedling. Set in a pan of warm water for bottom watering, as this will be the least likely way to disturb the new transplants.

Fungus disease known as damping-off can be the worst enemy of new seedlings. A seedling will appear perfectly healthy then you discover it has toppled over- a black line of rot cutting through its stem. Over crowding, being too warm and damp, and still air can all lead to this infectious loss. Prevention is the best weapon against damping-off. If you do use a mix with soil or sand, be sure to pasteurize it first. Make sure your seedlings get enough air circulation. Don’t keep them covered with plastic and don’t over water.

Growing your seedlings on, place them in a very sunny window using a sheer curtain in between to prevent scorching, or place under artificial light, adjusting the height as they grow. Fertilize once a week with a quarter strength solution of a liquid organic fertilizer. Continue to water and grow on until ready to set out.